Architects plan their designs down to the tiniest mathematical equation. Still, sometimes builders and planners forget to take into account the local geological hazards found in an area. In order to keep the investment that you make on your home I'm going to tell you the five things that Geologists actively look for when house shopping.
Is it in the Flood Plains?
It's important to make sure that the house you are considering buying isn't in the flood plains. Rivers and streams rise and fall depending upon the rainfall and snowfall of an area. This isn't just about in the place your potential house is but upstream as well. If there is a good solid snowfall followed by a warm day all that water is going right into the stream and when the stream can't handle it it's going to flood out the sides. This is natural. It's nature in all it's glory creating beautiful fertile land, and washing away any debris found on the shores. Let's just make sure it isn't a house that is categorized as 'debris'!
Is there a Hill or Cliff above your House?
Gravity is a fascinating feature and it never fails to bring something 'down to earth'. Unfortunately, if your house is under a tall hill or a cliff, when it comes down it's going to come down on your house. Your probably familiar with the word avalanche, or rock slide. Geologists call it a mass-wasting-event or even exfoliation. Mass-wasting events happen because of various things, such as to much build up of snow, rocks shifting loose thanks to years of exposure, or a dozen different things but in the end they will always follow the laws of gravity, and anything under it will find itself going 'splat'.
What is the Ground made of?
Interestingly enough many house shoppers never consider the potential problems of a clay based yard. Yes, it can cause long-term problems when it comes to starting a garden or having healthy grass but did you know that depending upon the type of clay it can destroy your foundation? Now you should know that not all clay is bad, but there are a couple of kinds that are royal trouble for any house built on it, and I'm happy to tell you why and how you can tell if it's going to be a problem for you or not.
Do you remember back when you took chemistry in high school, and how the teacher pointed out that water was polar. Just like the earth is? Well it turns out clay is too. So when you mix the two substances you get the same reaction as sticking two magnets together. This is why you have to bake clay to get the water out of it. Clay with water takes up a larger area than clay that is dry. This means that when it rains the clay in your yard will expand damaging your foundation.
Some clays can hold more water than others, so how can you tell if the soil around your dream home is going to cause you problems later on? The easiest way is to ask if the ground cracks during droughts. If the clay contracts so badly that you can see major cracks in the ground then it's going to swell and eventually do permanent damage to your foundation, when it does get a bit of rain.
Where will you be getting your Water?
If your buying a house in a major metropolitan area with a river nearby then this doesn't apply to you. After all the river acts as a renewable freshwater source, but if you are planning on buying a house even the least bit rural then this is a major problem. In today's culture we often take water for granted, but the truth is that it is a necessary resource for survival and comfort, what is even more important is that it is a limited resource.
If your house is out in the country then more than likely your water supply is from a series of wells, installed so that you can tap into the aquifer underneath your house. While aquifers do acquire fresh water from the water found in rain, snow, rivers and streams the amount that is actually absorbed into the aquifer is a very small percentage of the water passing through an area. When the amount of water taken from an aquifer is greater than the amount put into the aquifer there can be some unfortunate consequences.
The first problem is obvious. The less water in the aquifer the deeper the wells to reach the water. Drilling wells can be an expensive problem, and if your wells are your main source of water then that is something your going to have to do, like it or not.
The second major problem, was something I learned from paying attention to my Geology professors back in college. Interestingly enough several of my professors were actively studying an interesting phenomenon going on in town. You see the primary water source is from the aquifer below town. When the town was founded the aquifer was completely a freshwater aquifer, but as a hundred years passed by the size of the town grew and the water became more and more depleted. Since the freshwater aquifer became lower than a nearby saline aquifer the excess salt water began to encroach into the freshwater aquifer. So basically the aquifer under the town is slowly shifting from a freshwater to a salt water.
In the same vein, sometimes an aquifer can become polluted with chemicals or other hazards making it expensive to purify. Many people don't bother to check out the water supply located in an area they are thinking of purchasing but trust me on this. There is every reason to do it, and their isn't a good enough reason to not check it out.
Is there a Chance your Land will Subside?
Earthquakes are scary enough as it is, but it's not only around fault lines that you have to worry about the earth moving on you. If you live in an area where there are caves, or mining activity, then subsiding land could turn out to be a potential problem. In the event of subsiding land if the house is right over the part that gives, the house can be destroyed by the slumping. Fortunatly, for the last 20 years builders have frequently utilized geologists in order to make sure that land is stable for building.
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